Reverbaphon consists of multi-instrumentalist Paul Smith and his occasional accomplice Eva Cadario. Originally from Dundee, now based in Glasgow, Smith’s musical career spans 12 years including stints in improvisation bands, and collecting odd acoustic instruments whilst travelling abroad to combine with his digital equipment.
Following on from his 2002 debut EP, and support slots with Four Tet, he returns with a full length album of avant garde music which refuses to be pigeonholed, combining elements of folk, celtic and electronica.
The album opens with the acoustic guitar-led Kartoffeln, a syncopated melancholy affair, punctuated by running water samples, ticking clocks, and culminating in a dreamy accordion and synthesiser finale. Parameters Of Love combines a chiming synth and a more rigid digital beat with accordion and samples of driving and map-reading.
Smith’s voice comes to the fore on Asthetik Der Funktion, commanding you to “close your eyes, just fall asleep” and proclaiming there is “no future for the living” over discordant guitars and a ubiquitous accordion. The Hermit Returns weaves a gently plodding feel with a dance-like guitar -which ends up running dizzyingly from speaker to speaker- and electronic effects amid which the poem of the hermit is recited in a Scottish brogue.
Hydrocow is a rather joyful being, featuring a bouncing vocal sample and a melodica motif over digital percussion and ending with a sample of water lapping against a boat. The droning Christa’s Accordion is just that: an electronically processed accordion improvisation, with some rather grating high notes.
The final quartet of tracks outwardly seem to evoke a more chilled-out atmosphere. The Cut and Dry Song’s guitars and gentle bass create a sound more akin to a movie soundtrack, punctuated by a sporadic almost-beat and a disturbing vocal sample. Insect Interlude makes use of a biwa, an oriental banjo amongst seemingly random layers of sound.
The two title tracks both sound distinctly other-worldly. Our Heart Beats With Joy repeats a simple synthesiser motif while a freeform melodica makes a brief appearance toward the end. The Curved World employs a virtually unrecognisable saxophone to drone over a rather murky synthesiser, with tinkling bells and a menacingly jolly accordion adding to the whole, evoking images of someone floating in space.
Reverbaphon’s music is unique and staunchly abstract, not what you could describe as easy listening. Some tracks take a few listens to lodge in the subconscious, sometimes changing your initial impressions. However, some of the compositions seem to meander along and although threaten to, they never reach a climax – intentional or not. While it’s impossible to deny the talent that is at work here, Our Heart Beats With Joy is not an airport read, and ultimately is a challenging album you’ll either love or hate.